Review of Irish Film @ Feminist Film Festival: The Sea Between Us



Naomi Shea was at the recent Feminist Film Festival to see Caoimhe Butterly’s The Sea Between Us.


The Sea Between Us, Caoimhe Butterly’s 2016 documentary short, screened on the first day of the Irish Feminist Film Festival at the New Theatre in Temple Bar this November. The opening scene pans in jagged close-up across the ruinous wasteland of thousands upon thousands of discarded life jackets, paradoxically connoting the bodily absence of innumerable lost lives, as well as the people  that may have been saved. The Sea Between Us, with a run-time of just under 50 minutes, packs a succinct, intense and necessary punch. With Butterly’s gentle direction, gritty, unpolished cinematography from Marcelo Biglia and documentary cinema’s overarching tendency toward verisimilitude, The Sea Between Us offers what feels like a real-time exposition of a singular instance in the current global refugee crisis, one that achieves an immediacy and an honesty that only the filmic image can provide.

Structured by a series of vignettes set on the shores of Lesbos in Greece, where refugees arrive after their journey across the Aegean Sea, the film juxtaposes scenes of the boats’ safe arrival to land with the aid of volunteers working on the island against interviews with a range of people, refugees and volunteers alike, whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the crisis. The interviews are often staged against the backdrop of the sea, the sound and image of which continually foregrounds the urgency and the peril of the journeys taken across the water.

Butterly offers a testimonial platform for the refugees interviewed, where the watershed in their lives, literal and figurative, finally gives way to a space of hope and security. Many speak of the shattered homes they have fled, the family members they have lost and the livelihoods that have been destroyed, but they speak also of the families and communities they will join in Europe and all speak of the hope and opportunities they can now provide for their children.

An elderly woman from Syria proclaims herself a hero, having raised ten children and her grandchildren, who she can now join in Germany. A sixteen-year-old volunteer from Sao Paolo, who has come to the island for 45 days with her mother, tells of a fourteen-year-old Afghan girl who has fled her home alone. Having described the young girl’s journey, the volunteer says that she does not consider her a victim, but just a girl, like many other girls throughout the world.

Butterly offers insights into the female experience of the crisis that are at once singular and universal. These instances reveal a profound female strength and resilience that is contextualised by the film within the broader celebration of human strength and resilience in all its multifariousness and diversity.

Butterly has offered up an enlivened and pertinent discourse on the refugee crisis that displaces the image of the refugee as helpless and pitiable. The film gently but boldly lays the groundwork for a reappraisal of the crisis as a fundamentally humanitarian issue, unfettered by the specifics of religion, race, gender or age. As the sixteen-year old volunteer succinctly posits, the immediate requirement now is for safe journeys to be provided for all those needing to leave their countries of origin. While the physical and psychological impact of their personal and political histories is irrefutable, the guarantee, and not the arbitrary chance, of a safe journey and arrival is a hopeful and necessary step forward.

However, experiencing The Sea Between Us as part of a film festival is disarming for the passivity that is so inherent within the cinematic experience. The film engenders both a celebratory hope and an intense anger in the audience, but if the film is, after the credits have rolled and the lights come up, simply something that has been seen and emotionally experienced then we have failed as viewers to engage with what cinema of this nature is driving toward; a refusal of things as they are, a refusal to depict the same stories time and time again, because real change must always push beyond the cinematic frame.


The Sea Between Us screened on 18th November as part of the Feminist Film Festival (18 – 20 November 2016)





Feminist Film Festival Dublin 2016 Programme Announcement


EVENT DATES: Friday 18th, Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th November 2016

VENUE: The New Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 (beside the Project Arts Centre, through Connolly Books)

TICKETS: €10  Available online:

This year’s Feminist Film Festival programme includes the Ieish premiere of Amaka’s Kin: The Women of Nollywood (Tope Oshin, 2016), a screening of the film that inspired Beyoncé, Daughters of the Dust, on its 25th birthday, as well as a free talk and panel discussion, a director Q&A, Oscar winner The Piano, a Live music score, and many Irish and international short films.


Now in its third year, the Feminist Film Festival Dublin aims to counteract the mis/under-representation of women behind and in front of the camera. The FFFD is run voluntarily and all profits go to the women of Sasane Nepal.

OTHERED VOICES: This year our celebration of women in film focuses on the theme ‘Othered Voices’, with a programme of films capturing the female voice in its many forms. Historically little attention has been paid to women’s voices on-screen and commentary often stresses the need for women in the industry to ‘speak up’. The continued impact of Laura Mulvey’s 1975 analysis of the visual objectification of women in cinema (‘the male gaze’) has distracted from their vocal and verbal representation. Our programme addresses this, highlighting women’s literal and figurative voices, including interpretations of ‘the voice’ as a character’s, or the filmmaker’s, or a particular point of view.

ALL PROFITS TO SASANE: The FFFD festival is an independent event run by volunteers, and ALL profits from the festival go to Sasane in Nepal (, a non-profit charity organisation run by and for victims of sex trafficking. Sasane provides women with education, support and training. The Feminist Film Festival’s founder Karla Healion visited this charity in Nepal when travelling in Asia and was blown away by this group of amazing women, who not only survived horrific experiences of sex trafficking and violence but have now set up this organisation that supports other women who need help. The women of Sasane are positive, warm, strong, and smart people who so genuinely deserve our support. We hope to raise as much money as possible for these incredible women, and have donated all profits to them since the FFF Dublin began.

“We hope to help counteract the under-representation of women in film. This means we will support and promote films that women have played a vital role in making to help inspire others to get involved in filmmaking and production. We would also like to counteract the misrepresentation of women through stereotypical female characters. And, of course, we would also like to also bring the perspectives, stories and experiences of women, feminists and women-identified people to a wider audience through film at an inclusive and friendly event. The whole event is also, of course, a fundraiser for a fantastic and inspiring charity called Sasane that does incredible work in Nepal with victims of sex trafficking and gender violence. Using an event like this to raise money means that we can celebrate women’s rights and female empowerment transnationally and remind ourselves that gender equality is still not quite a reality.”Karla Healion, founder.




Mother Ireland (Anne Crilly, 1988. 53min)

The Sea Between Us (Caoimhe Butterly, 2016. 47min) €10

‘Mother Ireland’ is a familiar image, often depicted as ‘an Irish version of the Virgin Mary’. This documentary uses the depiction as departure point for a discussion of nationalism and feminism, featuring a number of well known republicans and feminists. Mother Ireland gives a voice to this mute icon, by allowing Irish women to verbally express their relationship with the imagery.

In contrast, The Sea Between Us, filmed on the shores of the Mediterranean, features those who have left their homes behind and are embarking on dangerous journeys in search of refuge. A timely and important film that gives a platform to some remarkable voices, while subtly challenging reductionist stereotypes.


The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993. 121min)   [& short] €10

In its depiction of a mute woman’s arranged marriage in mid-19th century New Zealand, Jane Campion’s The Piano raises questions not just about the representation of women’s voices, but also about how best to represent other marginalised groups. Though the film received some criticism for its presentation of the Maori people, the central character’s withholding of her voice, and use of music as an alternative to speech, provides one of the most remarkable treatments of the female voice on screen.



Margarita, with a Straw (Shonali Bose, 2014. 100min) [& short] €10

Margarita, with a Straw focuses on Laila, a rebellious Indian teenager with cerebral palsy trying to find her independence. As well as representing a young woman with a speech disorder, the film departs from typical coming-of-age movies due to its own radical agenda: Margarita is one of the first Hindi films to get LGBTQ sex scenes past a strict board of censors.


Amaka’s Kin: The Women of Nollywood (Tope Oshin, 2016. 43min)

+ Q&A with director Tope Oshin [& short] €10

Amaka’s Kin looks at the experiences of female directors working in the hugely prolific and male-dominated Nigerian film industry, known as ‘Nollywood’. Dedicated to the memory and successes of the late filmmaker Amaka Igwe, who famously said ‘Nollywood is a global movement’, the film uses interviews to chart the work of the women striving to make their mark in a man’s world.


FREE TALK: Screening Women’s Voices (Dr Jennifer O’Meara)

Why do women rarely serve as voice-over narrators? Did the empowered ‘fast-talking dame’ die out with the screwball comedy? And is ‘The Bechdel Test’ really a good way to measure female characters’ verbal representation? This talk will consider these and other questions, looking at historical and contemporary trends in the treatment of the female voice in cinema.



Regarding Susan Sontag (Nancy Kates, 2014. 101min) [& short] €10

Regarding Susan Sontag provides rich insights into the life of one of the most influential and outspoken critical thinkers of the 20th century. Patricia Clarkson narrates, reading as Sontag from her books and journal entries. This documentary charts Sontag’s public and private life through her writing, politics, personality and bisexuality. Incredible archive footage and wonderful narration establish an original and poetic tone fitting for its subject.


Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015. 97 min) [& short] €10

What happens when women are denied a voice? Deniz Gamze Ergüven explores this question in multi-award winning ‘feminist escape movie’ Mustang. Beautifully shot and exceptionally performed, the Oscar-nominated tale (writer/director Ergüven’s debut), tells the story of five sisters punished for ‘immoral’ behaviour in rural Turkey. A voice-over by the youngest sister frames this rousing portrayal in terms of solidarity and empowerment.


The Seashell and The Clergyman (with live score) (Germaine Dulac, 1928. 40min)

Black Box (Beth B & Scott B, 1979. 21min) [& short] €10

An early feminist filmmaker, Germaine Dulac was an integral part of the ’20s French avant garde movement. Women’s voices are felt from behind the camera, as well as in front of it, and The Seashell and the Clergyman – a silent film dealing with male obsession through a surrealist and experimental form – speaks volumes of the director’s point of view. The live film score contributes a fresh and real-time voice to this 1928 masterpiece.

The Seashell and the Clergyman is paired with a classic of recent feminist counter-culture, starring artistic icon of our time Lydia Lunch. In opposition to Dulac’s silent films, Lunch speaks ad nauseum in Black Box and narrates with a vicious anger, a voice of resistance and resilience. Artistic film occupies a special place within feminist visual culture and this double bill gives a taste of something other than the ubiquitous mainstream narrative.


Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991. 112min)  [& short]

‘Othered Voices:Women’s Voices in Media Industries’ Panel Discussion €10

Our final film celebrates the 25th anniversary of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, the first feature directed by an African American woman to receive wide theatrical release. Dash uses dialect and song to render the memory of the Gullah community, a colony of former slaves compelled to migrate to mainland America at the turn of the twentieth century. The unconventional narrator – an unborn child – powerfully captures the impact of migration on family relationships and cultural heritage. The film’s iconic stature and topical resonance was apparent this year when pop star Beyoncé referenced Dash’s mesmerizing imagery in her visual album Lemonade. The film will be followed by a panel discussion.


F_Festival Short Film Screenings


The Feminist Film Festival have programmed a selection shorts to screen as part of the F_Festival. The screenings take place on Saturday, March 12th from 6pm in Hangar, on St Andrew’s Lane. Admission is free.

The programme features Irish and International film, broken down into four different themes. There’s something for everyone, from a short documentary about Irish burlesque to an experimental musing on women and nature.

SHE LOVES (6.00pm – ­6.40pm)

Wedding Night (Jenni Toivoniemi, 2014)
My Bonnie (Hannah Quinn, 2015)
Queen of the Plough (Cara Holmes, 2015)
Rachel Coming Home (Sophia Tamburrini, 2015)

SHE DOCUMENTS (7.00pm­ – 7.40pm)

Our Gemma (Cara Holmes & Paula Geraghty, 2015)
Bandage (Tuija Halttunen, 2015)
What Kind of Fame You Have (Maria Kapajeva, 2015)
Shir Madness (Emily Murray, 2015)

SHE IS HERSELF (8.00pm­ – 8.40pm)

The Drive (Helen Flanagan & David Byrne, 2015)
Darkroom (Eoin Heaney, 2014)
Scale Down (Jennifer Leigh Allen, 2015)
The Haircut (Alexis O. Korycinski, 2014)

SHE’S AVANT GARDE (9.00pm – ­9.40pm)

Amber (Lorena Ribeiro, 2015)
L’Hostile et l’Agréable (Maika, 2014)
Happiness Machines (Niamh McKenna, 2015)
Milk (Virva Kunttu & Vuokko Kunttu, 2015)


Feminist Film Festival: Equality in Filmmaking Is Not So Frightening This Halloween


Joy Redmond previews the second Feminist Film Festival, which takes place 30th October – 1st November at Dublin’s The New Theatre.


The origin of Ireland’s only Feminist Film Festival reads like a Hollywood script – Karla Healion, a graduate traveling through Asia meets and is “blown away by a group of amazing former female victims of human trafficking” in Nepal. Back home and embarking on a Masters in Film Studies, Karla wants to raise money for their charity – SASANE which they established in 2008 by to train, educate and support other women who need help.

Noticing the many one-off events, premieres and talks but the absence of a full festival/weekend and just so the Feminist Film Festival is born.

Running from Friday to Sunday over the Halloween weekend in The New Theatre in Temple Bar, Karla maintains “it’s all about raising a few quid for these women while celebrating and supporting women in film. While we might get some great representation of women on screen, the vast majority of principal roles (director, editor, producer) are men so it’s good to support women behind the camera. It creates more of an equal industry. Having said that, it’s not a whinge fest – our first screening will be followed by a free talk on the ‘Achievements of Women in Film’ with Dr. Jennifer O’Meara (Maynooth University) because we have much to celebrate.”

Now in its second year, the programme has something for everyone, including the Irish premiere of Mary Dore’s She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary charting the U.S. women’s movement between 1966-1971.

“This year, all films are directed by women so it’s really important to make sure they get the exposure they deserve if we consider that only 5% of big budget films are from female directors or even closer to home, that 13% of films funded by the Irish Film Board are written by women so it’s all about trying to get more parity. The upside to the lack of blockbusters headed up by women is that when you approach the companies regarding the licence or the possibility of a premiere, we end up talking to actual filmmakers themselves, it’s interesting like that and makes it kind of intimate.”

The programme is eclectic to say the least and is the result of the work of a group of volunteers over the last few months.

“Instead of an overt theme, we wanted to be representational, e.g. a film that represented the non-western experience (Shinjuku Boys), something Irish (Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey), an Irish premiere (She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry), which is a real coup for us considering it sold out in the London Feminist Film Festival – it’s really inspiring and shines a bit of light on the journey since the early ’70s and, indeed, what hasn’t changed. We were delighted to include the 1962 classic Cléo from 5 to 7 by Agnès Varda and because of the weekend that’s in it, we had to include a Halloween Horror special with Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.”

One learning from last year was the lack of appropriate material for younger girls so Whip It should prove popular: “It’s a coming-of-age movie which should resonate with 12 year olds and up. It’s a really powerful message to younger audiences that the filmmaker behind the character is a woman and we want them to walk out and think ‘that was made by women, i could do that’. The festival is about empowering people of any age and getting the point across that women can be cultural producers and not just consumers of art or being objectified.”

It’s not all moving pictures either with a fair smattering of talks and panel discussions chaired by academics and film makers. Karla’s personal favourite of the weekend’s line-up, the closing panel discussion chaired by Professor Maria Pramaggiore (Head of Media Studies, Maynooth University): ‘Forms of Feminist Film: Fiction, Non-fiction, Experimental’ with Lelia Doolan (filmmaker; director of Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey), Dr. Maeve Connolly (Co-director ARC programme, IADT), Jesse Jones (filmmaker and visual artist), and Tess Motherway (documentary filmmaker and festival director at Dublin Doc Fest).

So put the Halloween weekend in your diary for Dublin’s second feminist film festival in the New Theatre in Temple Bar.

“We’re really happy to be back in this intimate environment – the layout is friendly/close knit, everyone is on the same level so the venue is very appropriate venue to our ethos, no podiums and mics just everyone sitting together and chatting.”

With intimacy comes a limited capacity of just 66 seats, so audiences are advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets can be bought online or free talks booked here

Just like the 2014 festival, ALL profits from the Feminist Film Festival will once again go to Sasane and the Sasane SOS/Sisterhood of Survivors, Nepal. No money will be taken for admin, handling or processing from the profits, the event is run voluntarily.


If you can’t make the festival, you can DONATE DIRECTLY HERE:

Further details and information about the Feminist Film Festival is available on their Website:

Or you can contact them directly via Email:

Facebook: or

Twitter (@FemmoFilmFest)




Podcast Interview: Rachel Lysaght, Women In Film and Television Ireland & Dr. Jennifer O’Meara, Feminist Film Festival




In this podcast, Gemma Creagh chats to Rachel Lysaght about the recently launched Irish branch of Women In Film & Television, and Dr. Jennifer O’Meara (Maynooth University) about the Feminist Film Festival, which takes place 30 October – 01 November in Dublin.


Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Soundcloud

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe to the Film Ireland RSS feed



Feminist Film Festival 2015


The Feminist Film Festival takes place October 30th – November 1st 2015 and includes the Irish premiere of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary charting the U.S. women’s movement between 1966-1971.

All festival profits go to Sasane, Nepal. This fund-raising is now being matched Euro for Euro by international non-profit Planeterra.

The full programme is:


3pm: Opening Wine Reception

4pm: Cléo de 5 à 7 / Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962) + short – €10

Screening sponsored by DCU, School of Communications

6pm: The screening will be followed by a FREE TALK on the ‘Achievements of Women in Film’ with Dr. Jennifer O’Meara (Maynooth University). Upstairs in The New Theatre – ticketed but FREE – please book your place in advance here.

FILM TICKETS – available here

FREE TALKS – register your place here



Halloween HORROR special!

12 noon: The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) + short – €10

2:15pm: The screening will be followed by a FREE TALK on ‘Women in Horror’ with Dr. Paula Quigley (Trinity College Dublin). Upstairs in The New Theatre – ticketed but FREE – please book your place in advance here.

Irish Premiere!

3:15pm: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Mary Dore, 2014) + short – €10

To mark the IRISH PREMIERE of the film at the Feminist Film Festival, Mary Dore will introduce her film with a pre-recorded message, answering fans’ questions…

Please SEND YOUR QUESTIONS FOR MARY DORE via email to, or Facebook, or Twitter (using #AskMaryDore)

FILM TICKETS – available here

FREE TALKS – register your place here



12pm: Whip It (Drew Barrymore, 2009) + short – €10 (PG Rating, suitable for older children)

2:30: SHORT FILM TRIPLE BILL: Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943) | The Delian Mode (Kara Blake, 2009) | The Body Beautiful (Ngozi Onwurah, 1990) – €10

4pm: Shinjuku Boys (Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams, 1995) + short – €10

5:30pm: Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey (Lelia Doolan, 2011) + short + panel – €10

7:30pm: PANEL DISCUSSION: ‘Forms of Feminist Film: Fiction, Non-fiction, Experimental’ (panel included in ticket for Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey)

The festival welcomes a diverse panel of active filmmakers and academics: Lelia Doolan (filmmaker; director of Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey), Dr. Maeve Connolly (Co-director ARC programme, IADT), Jesse Jones (filmmaker & visual artist), and Tess Motherway (documentary filmmaker & festival director at Dublin Doc Fest).

Chaired by Professor Maria Pramaggiore (Head of Media Studies, Maynooth University).

Panel sponsored by Maynooth University, Department of Media Studies

FILM TICKETS – available here.

Feminist Film Festival 2015: Friday – Sunday, October 30th – November 1st 2015

The New Theatre,
43 Essex St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
(Beside the Project Arts Centre, through Connolly Books)

PLEASE NOTE: Short film details will be announced prior to the festival (our short film submission call is now closed). All screenings are subject to licence.

FILM TICKETS – available here.

FREE TALKS – register your place here.

Please buy tickets in advance, and register for the free talks asap.


Report from the Feminist Film Festival



Eileen Leahy reports from the recent Feminist Film Festival and takes a look at three films that screened.


The first Feminist Film Festival in Dublin was a great success, money was raised for the charity Sasane and the films were well attended. In particular the festival was a great opportunity to see some feminist classics, for example Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) as well as more recent films like Chiemi Karasawa’s Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014) and a range of interesting recent shorts. There was a great buzz around the New Theatre, as a venue it’s a good size and location to create a lively atmosphere and small enough to allow audience members to feel like conversations can be started with strangers. And all the screenings were followed by lots of lively conversations among diverse audiences, of all backgrounds and all ages, which is just what a good festival should be.


Bananas on the Breadboard (Joe Lee, 2010)

A documentary made by Joe Lee in collaboration with the communities of Dublin’s Markets Area, a part of Dublin that stretches from Moore Street to Smithfield in the north-inner city, Bananas on the Breadboard presents an oral history of the area and an affectionate tribute to the women street traders that have become iconic of an authentic Dublin inner city. The film provides a detailed examination of the history of north Dublin’s markets, the local industries and a disappearing way of life in the inner city, with a strong focus on the women street traders of Dublin and their struggle for the right to make a living. Archive film and photography are combined with interviews with local residents, community activists and historians, along with footage of the area in the present to provide a fascinating portrait of this part of the city from medieval Dublin to the present day, from the point of view of its local communities. Of particular interest is the social history presented in this film that shows, in general, how a city evolves and, in particular, how local communities have had to struggle to survive these changes. This film’s strong focus on a perspective from local inhabitants presents an interesting counter to the stereotypical touristic portraits of Dublin that we usually see on-screen.


Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)

As a three and a half hour long experimental “masterpiece” this film seemed like a bit of an undertaking, but in fact there is something very hypnotic about the repetition of the mundane, domestic routine that made it quite comforting. And it was this dull repetition that allowed the narrative to have an impact, because it is in the minor, unremarkable incidents that we see the title character begin to unravel, an unravelling that mightn’t be noticed without the preceding drawn-out focus on the minutiae of her daily routine. I fully expected to be bored and took on this screening because the film is one of those “must-see” works. In fact, it was a really enjoyable film, one of those films that you can really only appreciate by watching in a cinema and I am so glad that I saw it. The performance from Delphine Seyrig, who played the title role, was simply superb and the attention to detail in every aspect of the filmmaking underscores her meticulous creation of this quiet, routine driven character. The final act of violence, therefore, does not shock, but somehow seems a completely logical and natural outcrop of how this woman lives her day-to-day life and it seems to speak to something intrinsically feminine and rarely visible onscreen.


Elaine Stritch (Chiemi Karasawa, 2013)

Karasawa’s documentary is not only a compelling portrait of this Broadway and television star but it also presents a complex exploration of ageing. The thoroughly engaging 86-year-old Stritch is shown as she tours a one-woman show of Sondheim songs, from rehearsal to performance, and this becomes a frank and searing portrait of her struggles with ageing, with alcoholism and with diabetes. The documentary uses a combination of fly-on-the-wall type scenes of Elaine rehearsing, in her hotel suite, her visits to hospital and her on-stage performances, alongside interviews (many of them with her celebrity friends) and archives, to present a really enthralling picture of this feisty, difficult but utterly captivating woman. In one memorable scene she berates the camera operator for not following her into her hotel kitchenette and insists on a reshoot. In this way the film makes clear Stritch’s complicity in how the documentary represents her, a very clever device from the filmmaker that manages to let the audience know that here is a performance from an accomplished and astute professional. But this doesn’t take away from the film’s power; it only makes her all the more compelling to watch. Particularly memorable are the shots of her prancing around New York’s streets in a vibrant fur-coat and shorts, a brilliant riposte to the idea of “all fur coat and no knickers”. Overall this film is a vital and forceful portrait of ageing, in a world where older women are pretty much invisible.

The Feminist Film Festival took place Saturday 30th – Sunday 31st August 2014.




Interview: Karla Healion, director of Feminist Film Festival



Eileen Leahy spoke to Karla Healion festival director for the Feminist Film Festival, which takes place on Saturday 30th – Sunday 31st August.

Why organise a Feminist Film Festival, what made you decide to do it?

I guess the thinking behind it was sparked when I visited the charity Sasane in Nepal a few months ago. I ended up meeting the former victims of sex trafficking who established the charity in 2008 in order to train, educate and support other women. They were so amazing, I can’t tell you how incredible they were. And I thought, when I go home I have to do something for them. So I think the first thing for me was to do a fundraiser for those women. And I am also something of a film buff, I love film and I have been active in feminism for many years and very aware of equality – or inequality, perhaps. I think looking at facts and figures, there’s been loads of studies showing that women are still very under-represented, especially in bigger budget spheres, in both making films and as characters in films. We’re under-represented in all walks of life, and the Arts is no exception really. I do think that women are misrepresented on the screen, and that’s a pity, it is the whole Bechdel Test thing where, when you see a woman onscreen it’s usually in reference to a man, she usually has a marital status defined, or is more likely to be nude, etc., or she is not as likely to be the protagonist, not as likely to be the lead. So for me, the more we can do to celebrate women filmmakers, and decent characters, and decent character portrayals of women, and the more we can support that kind of writing in film, etc., the better. There’s still a lot of room for that, until the day when we don’t have to push for it anymore, when it just happens.


Who is involved, is there a group?

There are so many people helping, there was a curatorial workshop with a team of people helping to programme and another team reviewing the shorts, so I have two teams where we can bounce things off each other and look at stuff and talk things through. Because if it were just me it would be too much of a vanity project, so although I’m the sole organiser behind the festival, I got together a team of people who are film experts or filmmakers just for that bit of input and feedback to select the films for the programme.


Was it difficult to find films?

It was very difficult to find women-centred or female-driven films when you move away from slightly more left-of-centre, underground, documentary or art. Female-made or female-led blockbusters and action films, big budget and the fun, silly films that we all like to watch when we have a hangover on a Sunday, are hard to find. So I desperately wanted to show something that is really popular, accessible and inclusive. We considered things like the Kill Bill or Alien films, classics with strong female leads. And I thought well I only have two days, that’s only five or six feature films, I don’t really want two of them to be completely made by men, with whole male crews, written by guys. I just needed to steer clear of that in the end, with such a short programme. So it was a challenge, especially since this is a fundraiser: I need bums on seats, it’s not arts-funded and it needs to have popular appeal.


So what was the rationale for the films you picked?

We had criteria based on things like: if there was a decent representation of women in the crew, or integral crew member, like a director or an editor, writer etc., if there were really well written female leads or characters in it. The more the process went on the more we realised that we really needed to honour those things. There’s a bit of a backlash at the moment against this idea of the strong female lead, I’ve read a few pieces over the last while about that, people saying that it’s not enough to just drop a woman into a man’s role. And the more I thought about that the more that made sense to me. I wanted to tick all the boxes in terms of being made by women, or written by women and have decent characters. Then we sat down and work-shopped it. We thought that we don’t want to simply tick boxes, we do need something that represents non-Western women, we do want something that represents an Irish perspective and we do want to have a decent texture in terms of the programme, aesthetically and tone-wise, that it isn’t all very similar films but that they go well together as a whole. So there was loads of things to consider and each time we reconsidered one element it would have a snowball effect so we were trying to look holistically at the whole programme as something that worked, and I think we got there in the end.


So what would you say is the overarching thing that links the films together?

We’ve tried to make sure that the selection is inclusive, supportive of female filmmakers, showing good characters and covering a few angles and different perspectives. And the open call for short films, which got a good response, adds another bit of texture to the programme alongside supporting some independent filmmakers. We’ve had a scoop with the Irish premiere of Elaine Stritch, Shoot Me (Chiemi Karawawa, 2013), which is really exciting but we’re also showing some lesser known gems, like the Dublin community film Bananas on the Breadboard (Joe Lee, 2010) made with the Markets Area community to honour the women street traders of Dublin, full of rich characters and interesting insights into Dublin, as well as experimental films from Vivienne Dick who will do a Q&A with us and of course a range of other well-known and lesser known works from all over the world. There’s pretty much something for everyone, from popular entertainment to cinephilia.


Will you be doing it again next year? Will it become an annual festival?

I’d love it to, that’s the ideal, the best-case scenario but it really just depends how the next month goes. My real concern is making a few quid for these women in Nepal – that’s my altruistic motivation. My selfish motivation is that I love film and this is just great fun and I’d love to do it again, so hopefully we can make all those things happen and it will be successful enough to do it again next year, maybe with funding so that it can be more sustainable. This year I just wanted to do it, get it out there and learn from some mistakes but equally do it well so that there’s a decent response.

The Feminist Film Festival will take place on Saturday, August 30th, from 12-5pm and on Sunday, August 31st from 12-9pm at The New Theatre, 43 Essex St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Check out the festival’s website, Facebook, & Twitter